One Home Performance Contractor's Experience with HubSpot
Editor's note: Nate Adams of Energy Smart Home Performance is a home performance and insulation contractor based in Cleveland. He's also a great guy and pioneer amongst contractors in using social media to drive his business. For the past year, he's been using Hubspot, a comprehensive inbound marketing content management system that we, here at Energy Circle, consider to be a benchmark. Energy Circle PRO and Hubspot are birds of a feather (though at very different price points)--comprehensive platforms for managing your online presence and generating leads. In a recent conversation, Nate mentioned that he would be leaving HubSpot after a year. After asking him to elaborate, he came back with this thoughtful guest post about the benefits and drawbacks of the popular content management system.
Authored By: Nate Adams, Energy Smart Home Performance, Cleveland, OH
I'm coming to the end of 1 year with Hubspot, and I've decided to stop. The product has a great deal of positives, and a few negatives. If you are considering it, here are some things to consider.
Reporting you don't see elsewhere.
Google Analytics may show one page as several pages, depending on where it came from. The labels show the long html, not the page title, so it's a little tougher to figure out.
Visits vs. last month in a sloping graph. Google does it day by day, rather than adding it up.
Leads vs. last month from offers. A simple website won't handle leads like this.
Killer Info Collection and Lists
HubSpot collects user info and remembers it when people come back, so they don't have to type their name into a form to download a white paper again.
You can put people in and out of lists, some are fixed, others change automatically when someone does something, like sign up for an eBook or visit 4 or more pages.
Each contact is put on one page, and you can see what they read and when, and what their contact info is.
Help with SEO & Keywords
You can create lists of industry specific keywords and track how many are in a given page.
Keywords actually save, unlike Google, where you have to put them in a spreadsheet.
You can see how you rank for various keywords as well.
While writing blog entries, it reminds you of pieces you still need to do, like keywords in the title, doing a meta description (a brief summary that search engines often pull, rather than the first paragraph of the entry), and more.
When someone does an action you want them to, they can be put into a workflow that sends them emails that you set up in advance.
Easy Web Page Building
Set up landing pages, blog entries, and more, easily. It's a pretty good CMS (Content Management System). It's not super flexible, design wise, which my web designer wife doesn't like.
Those are some of the good parts of Hubspot. Then there's the other side:
Get charged for leads you don't care about.
The national/international scope of the web gets you "leads" from all over. You get charged by how many contacts you have, and most of the leads you'll get will not be local. This is good if you have a nationwide business (like Energy Vanguard, for example), but not so good for a local one.
Content is still king, not software.
You saw that my most popular posts are well-keyworded. While I have keywords in mind as I write, I don't do it just for keywords, I do it for good content. The fact is, the top articles have good information and people stay on the page long enough to read them, and Google notices that.
It's a ton of work.
I'm a one-man marketing machine. I quote the work, I handle correspondence, and I tackle everything else, just like many of you. Hubspot says you need 4-5 hours/week to run it well. (Writing time can easily run that long on its own.) 4-5 hours/week is probably not that far off of fact, but that's tough to do when weeks run into the 70-80 hour range in high season. I also personally don't like the detailed work of setting up the emails all that well, so I tend to not do it. I prefer to write. Which means the work is left undone, and unless you put the hours into it, Hubspot is not really worth it.
It's not cheap.
It starts at $400/month, plus $2K upfront. You can do it 3 months at a time, which I did for cash-flow, but then when you get above 400 contacts, which I did when I added my customer list, the charge goes to $500/month.
$500 a month is a pretty good chunk. If I could track 1-2 jobs/month coming directly from it, it would be break even. The trouble is, content is what makes people happy, the few jobs I can track directly to the website alone were when people read multiple pages and decided I was the one. Which to me means I should write more. Other leads are heavily reinforced by the website, they hear about me from Angie's List or the gas company rebate program and then like the professional look and feel of the site. As nice as all the extra bells and whistles are, I think I can do it for less using a CRM tool.
So that's my thought process in leaving Hubspot.
It really is a cool and useful product, and I highly suggest reading their blog and downloading their white papers, which are free and excellent. (Moz is great too.) It is much better suited for larger organizations that are national in scope than it is for smaller shops like me.
I'll be back on my old blog platform shortly. And now to shop for a good CRM. Which no one seems to even remotely agree on...